The Edmonton Elks would like nothing better than to turn the page of what was a disappointing first half of the 2021 CFL season. They look to do just that on Friday night when they begin a home-and-home series with the Blue Bombers from IG Field in Winnipeg.
The Elks started the season 0-2, then went on a two-game winning streak to pull even at 2-2 but couldn’t sustain their momentum and have lost three straight games to sit with a 2-5 record in last place in the CFL’s Western Division.
Quarterback Trevor Harris, who returns Friday after missing the last two games with a neck injury, feels the first half of the season was extremely disappointing, but said its about how the team finishes.
“I think it’s about how we can make this situation better is to dig ourselves out of this,” Harris said. “We need to test the wherewithal with this team, test the resolve, and I think we’re going to see we have great character in the locker and a great team.
“I think we will look back at the end of the season and like how we responded to the start.”
A number of trends need to change for the Elks to ensure a better second half of the season. Despite ranking second in the CFL in average yards of net offence per game (386.1), the Elks are seventh in the league in points scored with 140.
Defensively, the Elks have allowed the fewest yards on average per game (288.3), they have allowed the second-most points in the league with 185. Add it up and that works out to a minus-45 point differential.
This will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams after the Bombers won 37-22 back in Edmonton on Sept. 18.
During that game, the Elks were leading 16-15 before two turnovers lead to two defensive touchdowns for the Bombers, changing the complexion of the game.
The Bombers are on a five-game winning streak and sit in first place in the Western Division. What has made the Bombers successful this season is their league-leading plus-14 turnover ratio. The Elks are last in that category sitting at minus-13.
It’s a huge challenge for the Elks on Friday, but running back James Wilder Junior says he’s looking forward to it and feels his team can rise to the occasion.
“Good team, we’ve faced them before. Great crowd there (at IG Field) and a great atmosphere. But as a competitor, you don’t want it any other way,” Wilder said. “They’re the best team in the league right now, to get there and get a win on their home field would be great for our team, for our morale and for our city.”
In addition to having Trevor Harris back in the lineup, the Elks will have offensive lineman David Beard back playing at centre. Beard missed last week’s game in Ottawa as he was in COVID protocol. Defensive end Matheiu Betts returns after missing last week’s game in Ottawa with a leg injury. Linebacker Maxime Rouyer will play his first game of the season on special teams. Coming off the active roster are defensive linemen Cole Nelson and Rossini Sandjong, along with offensive lineman Steven Nielsen.
The following are the projected offensive and defensive starters for the Elks:
Quarterback: Trevor Harris
Running back: James Wilder Jr. (fullback: James Tuck)
Offensive line: SirVincent Rogers, Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, David Beard, Matt O’Donnell, Kyle Saxelid
Receivers: Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson, Shai Ross, Mike Jones, Tevaun Smith
Defensive line: Mathieu Betts, Jake Ceresna, Mike Moore, Kwaku Boateng
Linebackers: Nyles Morgan, Kieshawn Bierria, Derrick Moncrief
Defensive backs: Jonathon Mincy, Trumaine Washington, Jordan Hoover, Aaron Grymes, Jonathon Rose
You can hear live coverage of Friday’s game between Elks and Bombers on 630 CHED starting with Countdown to Kickoff 5 p.m. The opening kickoff from IG Field in Winnipeg will be at 6:30 p.m. with Morley Scott and Dave Campbell calling all of the live action. Plus, hear analysis from two-time Grey Cup Champion and former Edmonton Football Team offensive lineman Blake Dermott.